Guardiola faces fresh questions about allegations of financial wrongdoing by Manchester City
MANCHESTER, England (AP) — After Everton was hit with a Premier League record 10-point deduction last week, attention has turned to Manchester City and accusations of years of financial wrongdoing.
Ahead of Saturday's match against Liverpool, City manager Pep Guardiola found himself facing renewed questions about allegations his club had committed more than 100 breaches of league rules on its way to dominating English soccer.
“I didn’t change for one second my opinion about it,” Guardiola said at a news conference on Friday. “Take time, wait and see what they decide and after we accept the resolution.”
The severity of Everton’s unprecedented punishment has prompted speculation about the sanctions that could be imposed on City, which could include a point deduction or even expulsion from English soccer's top division.
“It’s two different cases. It’s not the same. Honestly,” Guardiola said. “I spoke with my people (and they) said it is completely different.
“What people accuse us of we do not agree with what they say. We are going to defend (ourselves) and after the resolution is done, I will be here, like a spokesman for my club.”
The league has accused City of dozens of breaches, including providing misleading information about its finances over a nine-year period from 2009-18 when it signed a slew of the world's best players like Sergio Aguero and Kevin De Bruyne.
The league has laid out about 80 alleged breaches of its financial rules and has accused City of 30 more, which relate to its supposed failure to cooperate with the investigation.
The league is also reportedly investigating Chelsea for potential financial breaches under its former owner, Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich.
City has spent exorbitantly since being bought by Abu Dhabi's ruling family in 2008. It has become one of the most powerful teams in Europe and last season won the Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup.
The Premier League allegations came after a four-year investigation and the publication of leaked emails and documents, likely hacked, that were published starting in 2018 by German magazine Der Spiegel. The documents allegedly showed attempts to cover up the source of the club’s income in a bid to comply with Financial Fair Play rules operated by European soccer body UEFA and the league.
City said in a statement in February it had “irrefutable evidence” to put the matter to rest “once and for all.”
If City is found guilty, it has been speculated that the punishment could be more severe than Everton, which was given the biggest sporting sanction in the league’s 31-year history for breaching its financial rules.
The Merseyside club was found by an independent commission to have made a loss of 124.5 million pounds ($155 million) over three years up to the end of the 2021-22 season. Clubs are allowed to lose a maximum of 105 million pounds ($130 million) over a three-year period.
“Everton has set a bar. People say it is too harsh. I don’t think it is having studied the ruling,” sports lawyer Chris Farnell told The Associated Press. “Not only do they have to punish Everton for overspending by such an amount, also, they cannot be perceived as a league to allow Everton to benefit.”
Farnell has worked as an external lawyer for Everton in the past. He said the ruling could have implications for City if the allegations against the club are proven.
“If you look at the ruling, it’s interesting from a legal perspective. They ask whether there should be a formula for this type of punishment,” he said.
Farnell said a formula would provide clubs with a “worst case scenario” in such cases and the lack of one means a variety of sanctions, such as expulsion, are “in play.”
“It could pose problems to legal advisors to Manchester City,” he added.
City had a two-year ban from European competitions overturned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport in 2020 after a UEFA-appointed panel found “serious breaches” of financial rules from 2012-16.
The league's accusations in February presented renewed questions about its financial dealings.
Guardiola has turned City into the most dominant team in English soccer and won five titles in the last six seasons.
He has claimed that the club has already been “condemned” before having its case heard.
“I know the people want it. I know, I feel it,” he said Friday.
Guardiola was asked if there would be a punishment severe enough to see him consider his future at City.
“I will answer when I have the sentence,” he said. "You are questioning like we have been punished. And in the moment we are innocent until guilt is proved.
“Wait and see it and after the sentence has been done we will come here and explain it. But absolutely I will not consider my future (if) it depends on being here (Premier League) or being in League One (the third division). ... There is more chance (for me) to stay if we are in League One than if we were in the Champions League.”
James Robson is at https://twitter.com/jamesalanrobson
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